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New Iraqi Prime Minister Charged With Forming New Government

Barham Salih (right), Iraq's newly elected president, walks with new Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi at the parliament in Baghdad on October 2.

Iraq's new president has moved quickly to install veteran Shi'ite politician Adel Abdul-Mahdi as prime minister, charged with forming a new government nearly five months after national elections were held.

Abdul-Mahdi is an independent who previously served as vice president, oil minister, and finance minister. He is not allied with either of the two Shi'ite-led blocs that each claim to have the most support after May's elections, in which no party won an outright majority.

He was previously a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, a large Shi'ite party with close ties to Iran.

Abdul-Mahdi was tasked with forming a new government by Barham Salih, a Kurdish politician who was elected to the largely ceremonial role of president in a parliamentary vote earlier on October 2.

Under an unofficial agreement dating back to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Iraq's presidency is held by a Kurd, while the prime minister is Shi'a, and the parliament speaker is Sunni.

The prime minister-designate will have 30 days to submit his cabinet to parliament. Iraq held elections May 12.

Two Shi'ite-led blocs since the elections have claimed to have the most seats and therefore the right to form a government. One is led by the current prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi, and includes supporters of populist Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose followers won the most votes in the election.

The other bloc includes state-sanctioned militias, many of which are backed by Iran, as well as former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Maliki is one of Iran's most prominent allies in Iraq while Abadi was seen as the preferred candidate of the United States. Sadr portrays himself as a nationalist who rejects both U.S. and Iranian influence in Iraq.

Abdul-Mahdi emerged as a consensus candidate for prime minister among the Shi'ite factions.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters